For all of its amusements, “Painting in the ’80s” makes a serious, and often overlooked, case for Murray as a leading light of the neo-Expressionists, one who found innovative ways to reinvigorate oil on canvas from the minimalist doldrums of the 1970s. It was an early engagement with Cézanne that convinced Murray to refocus her talents on painting rather than commercial art as a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The structures of Post-Impressionism and Cubism continued to undergird her colors and forms, even, or especially, as her palette grew more outlandish and her canvases more distended.
With cracked compositions, the walls and rooms of the gallery space become part of the structural matrix. Ultimately, in both her departure from and her embrace of modernist painting, Murray’s disintegration of substances and surfaces was informed by a history of vanguard art. Her accomplishments, one-on-one, may seem cartoonish and slight, an impish raspberry in the face of modernism. But through this amusing and illuminating show, especially in her larger, vertiginous work, Murray has the last laugh.
1 “The Sculpture of Gonzalo Fonseca” opened at The Noguchi Museum, Queens, on October 25, 2017 and remains on view through March 11, 2018.
2 “Lois Dodd: Selected Paintings” opened at Alexandre Gallery, New York, on December 2, 2017 and remains on view through January 27, 2018.
3 “Kenneth Noland: Circles, Early + Late, 1959–1962, 1999–2002” was on view at Yares Art, New York, from November 11 through December 30, 2017.
4 “Elizabeth Murray: Painting in the ’80s” opened at Pace, New York, on November 2, 2017 and remains on view through January 13, 2018.